Hypothetically, let's say you've gotten an offer of representation by an agent.
Secondly, you're probably wondering what protocol is. As an agent, I'll give the writer 7-10 days to accept my offer. There are several reasons for this. One, I understand that other agents need to be notified (more on this later) and as a professional courtesy I want to extend them the opportunity of jumping on the great ms (or so I can later rub in their faces that I got it and they didn't--I'll get my victories where I can). Two, I want the writer to mull my offer over, do a little more research about me, and really decide if I'm the best agent for the job. If a writer decides he/she doesn't want to work with me for whatever reason, then please, reject the offer. You don't need to accept the first offer that comes around. If you think we won't work well together, (and for some reason I didn't pick up that vibe), I don't want to find out the hard way.
Okay, thirdly, you have the offer, you've popped open the champagne, and squealed to your closet friends about it. Now you have other agents with partials or full manuscripts that you haven't heard back from. Politely inform them of your offer, the title of your ms, and the date at which you need an answer by. In the subject line, put "Offer of Representation." Always catches my eye and I will usually grab your ms right then and start reading (you've been moved to the top of the slush pile because someone has already weeded you out for me). If your offering agent hasn't given you a deadline, ask for one, or ask for 7-10 days (decide which one you want) to inform other agents.
Your question now should be: which agents do I inform? The ones who currently have your partial or full ms. Not the ones who have rejected you. It's up to you whether you want to inform agents who only have your query but haven't responded yet. For those, hit the ones you like best, such as one you really, really, really want to work with. Personally, I do appreciate being informed, because there is nothing I hate more than getting excited about a query letter only to be informed that they've already been signed.
An offer from a small press works the same. In that case, you have to make a decision. Is the small press really the way you want to go? Do you still really, really want an agent? If so, you might want to forgo the small press altogether. If you just want someone to want your ms, then it's up to you whether to let the agents know and have a chance at your ms, otherwise, just rescind it.
Anne asked, should I inform an agent who has had my partial for nine months of an offer from a small press? Yes, you can. They haven't out-right rejected you, so you can inform them. However, you should decide whether you really, really want that agent (notice the difference between "really" and "really, really"). If that agent was on your list for the sake of being on your list, then maybe following up isn't worth it. If you think that agent is the cat's meow, then you have nothing to lose.
LOL- I have a feeling you're going to get more e-mails than usual with "Offer of Representation" in the subject line! Your posts are always so informative- thanks for that.
How would you modify this protocol in a situation where an offer of representation is limited? In my case, I've gotten an offer from a foreign agent to help me with my contract with a foreign publisher. That publisher, agent and I all agree I'd be better off with a US agent for success in the US market. So, it's an offer, but a limited one, albeit from a top agent in that country.
Only one question remains...what kind of champagne? :) Great post--I hope someday to refer back to it :)
Virginia, you can decide what to do in that situation. Some agents won't care that you have an offer from a forgein agent--your ms still has to stand on it's own here. Some might be intrigued and move it to the top of the slush. the problem with telling agents that you already have a forgein agent is that some agencies like to handle their own foregin rights. So you may need to forgo that other agent entirely. You can inform agents in your query that you've had foreign interest, especially by a publisher. The worst that can happen is you get a no. If you want to put that other agent on a time line (if you don't get annother offer in two weeks then you'll go with him) then you'd follow the same protocol as I outlined above. This will severly limit your options though.
This is a very useful post. I've always wondered how to communicate with other agents if I've received my first offer.
Thank you for the synopsis. When informing other agents, should the writer name the agent who offered representation, or is it best to leave stated generally? Like Gina said above, I can see some enterprising query using that "offer of representation" tagline when it's not true!
You can leave the agent anonymous.
Word of warning for people who want to cheat, we will find out. Your story has to stand on it's own. If you burn that bridge, there is no rebuilding. And agents talk, so regaining our trust is hard. Lying isn't worth it.
Interesting to know how it goes after an offer of representation. I'll certainly be referring back to this when the time comes ... but it’s early days for me.
I think my first step will be getting off the floor after I've fainted. Then head for the Belgian chocolates. ^_^
Great post! Thanks so much for taking the time. I enjoy reading your thoughts.
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